The reconfigured Philippine Airlines A330-300 economy features enhanced in-flight offerings and can be an excellent value for traversing the South China Sea to the “Land of Smiles”. The Pros: decent seat pitch, top-notch crew, tasty meal, free Wi-Fi, and an impressive IFE system. The Cons: additional assistance to unfold tray table in exit row seat and no power port.
With commercial airfares slumping at zany lows, there’s never been a better time to fly across Asia. But when it’s possible to find seats for as little as $30 one-way on a gutsy low-cost carrier, does it ever make sense to pay more to fly on a 4-star global airline? That’s the question I face whenever I need to buy a ticket for an international departure from Manila.
As you may already know, Cebu Pacific is notorious for its frequent ‘Piso fare‘ promos, it’s practically hard to miss. Same with Air Asia. I almost booked a Php1799 (about 32USD) one-way base fare to Bangkok last May for a getaway with friends. But this cheap deal didn’t have the best schedule, had a pricier return fare, baggage restriction, no meal, no insurance—you’re looking at a potential added expense. That said, I skipped Bangkok.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for budget airlines for they really help cut down my travel cost. But if I want value for the entire trip (i.e. include meals, baggage allowance, travel insurance, best seat), I must pay more. So for our trip to Bali, the supposedly Php5000 roundtrip fare (via Air Asia), ended up amounting to Php9000 plus (around 165USD).
In hindsight, I could have been on a PAL economy flight to Bangkok for additional PHP 2000 and I could have earned Mabuhay Miles credit and dug PAL’s well-raved IFE system… But it wasn’t for me yet (I rationalized)…
Turns out, I’d fly to Bangkok soon enough!
This time around, thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand in the Philippines, I’d be seated in the refined economy class cabin aboard one of Philippine Airlines’ newest widebody aircraft, the Airbus A330-300.
IN THIS POST
Booking and Check-in
Our flight from Manila to Bangkok was departing at 9:45AM, so I needed to arrive at NAIA Terminal 2 before 7:45AM. But since the group for this Fam tour agreed to hold a briefing, the call time was set at 7. I was late.
I wasn’t sure how crazy the lines would be at NAIA Terminal 2. Philippine Airlines departs here and has the terminal to itself.
Fortunately, I managed to check-in quick as there weren’t many people in the line.
The immigration and final security process were civilized. While there were dozens of people there, the line moved swiftly, and I was through within about 45 minutes. Oddly, I was asked more questions than usual by the Immigration officer. It may have started with my lack of knowledge when my ticket was booked. I should’ve asked the organizer.
|Inside economy cabin of PAL A330-300|
Cabin and Seat
Philippine Airlines is currently the only certified 4-star global airline in the Philippines. Part of its journey to achieve its Skytrax rating was fleet modernization and expansion. That said, eight of its 15 Airbus A330s were reconfigured to introduce tri-class experience.
The tri-class comprises three types of seats: 18 flatbed Business Class seats, 267 enhanced Economy seats, and the latest addition, the Premium Economy Class with 24 recliner seats in an exclusive cabin.
The design of each cabin gives you familiarity. If you look closely, Philippine indigenous weave patterns can be seen all over the place—on the carpet, the seat cover, and the wall.
My seat was 51F. It was on the exit row. Naturally, I was ecstatic by the legroom. But truth be told I don’t need much legroom. I’m quite short.
The economy seat pitch on this plane is listed at 32 inches. The width between armrests is 18 inches. You can recline the seat up to 6 inches. You can imagine the comfort!
With a blanket, a small pillow, and lightweight headphones, I have restfully seated the entire flight.
|PAL A330-300 breakfast meal|
Food and Beverage
My photo history tells me breakfast was served about 40 minutes after the take-off, and I had a choice of rice or a pasta dish.
I went for the pasta, which also came with a side salad, bread and butter, dried mangoes, and mango ice cream.
The food was more than a typical “airline food”—looked and smelled appetizing, tasty, and sufficient. The pasta was cooked to al dente. The moist beef sauce and the salad gave it a kick. The dried mangoes were a pleasant prelude to the delectable mango ice cream. Ah, the bread didn’t disappoint too!
For the drinks, you can have unlimited coffee or water. You may also request for a cup of red wine if you feel like it.
The crew in our cabin were extremely friendly throughout the flight. They constantly passed through the cabin, and if anyone wanted to request anything they’d gladly assist, even if it wasn’t during one of the services. One crew even let me have coffee, yet again…!
|PAL A330-300 IFE system|
Amenities and In-flight Entertainment
Within three and a half hours of flight, I had time to explore a few features of the economy cabin.
Every seat in economy featured 10.1-inch myPAL eSuite Personal TV IFE touchscreen system, loaded with a wide range of music, blockbuster movies, tv shows, child-friendly movies, and more.
I opted to watch Red Sparrow and another movie I forgot the title. The shows are available in multiple languages.
The headphones were comfortable to my head and ears. I like the fact that the IFE sound automatically pauses to give way for announcements.
The monitor has a USB port where you can charge small devices like your mobile phone, power bank, tablet or whatever with a USB cable.
I was highly impressed by the IFE system.
|A330-300 has Wi-Fi access|
If there’s one area that A330 is admirably ahead, it’s Wi-Fi access. Complimentary use of Wi-fi for 15 minutes is entitled to each economy passenger. If you need more than this, you may pay for an additional charge. If you ask about the speed, it’s fast!
Understandably, a missing piece of technology in the A330-300 economy cabin is electrical outlets (but note that there are electrical sockets in the business and premium economy cabins).
Given the wide size of the economy cabin, there were an ample six lavatories available. And being on the exit rows, we were literally just a step away from the four of them. The two lavatories I visited were generally clean and well-lit. If you ask me, it wasn’t bothersome being near the lavatory. Somehow, the loud suction noise coming from the sink drain didn’t sound as loud from our seats.
|shop duty-free at PAL Sky Boutique|
PAL Sky Boutique
You can shop at Sky Boutique duty-free and at the same time acquire Mabuhay Miles credit. Wow. Seriously, I should have known about this earlier. This is a place where I can buy Elizabeth Arden perfume guilt free!
Of course, it’s not only this perfume that you can buy at PAL Boutique online. You can also enjoy a convenient and hassle-free shopping experience for your travel essentials and more when you shop here – toiletries, luggage, baggage tags, travel kits, etc.
I absolutely loved my PAL A330-300 economy experience—so much so that I hope to fly aboard the aircraft again to Sapporo in Hokkaido, Japan. This is A330’s latest destination.
I’d consider PAL A330 economy experience to be better than many other economy-class competitors. The seat, pillow, blanket, other amenities, the food, the crew, and the in-flight entertainment made everything truly more comfortable!
All-in-all an economy class experience with A330-300, that cost under 200USD per person, was a heck of a deal!
There’s definitely a high retention rate among those who #flyPAL. Those next to me had flown it multiple times, and I get them. With PAL, you won’t get rock-bottom airfares like the competitor low-cost carriers but you’d get reasonable discounts. You may pay a little more, but the value for the entire trip is maintained. With Philippine Airlines, you get plenty of comfort—and this is agreeably the most important thing when it comes to commercial air travel.
Have you ever flown with Philippine Airlines? How was your experience? What in-flight service do you like the most? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!